Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan asked the state’s Supreme Court in an emergency motion filed on Tuesday to overturn a ruling made by a district judge that bars them from ordering the arrest of Democrat representatives who are breaking quorum in the lower chamber, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
They argued that state District Judge Brad Urrutia’s order improperly prevented them from exercising authority specifically granted by the Texas Constitution, stating in their motion that “compelling the attendance of its members is a prerogative given to the House by the Texas Constitution.”
The motion comes one day after the Democrat judge signed a temporary restraining order barring state officials from arresting the Democrats, who left the House without enough members to carry out business in order to block the passage of a Republican elections bill that they say would restrict voting rights, according to The Texas Tribune.
The motion asked the Supreme Court, which is made up of all Republicans, to overturn the restraining order before 5 p.m. Tuesday, because the second special session is ongoing and the return to the state of the House Democrats is imminent, the American-Statesman reported.
Abbott and Phelan also declared that Uruttia’s intention to hold a hearing on the matter only on Aug. 20 would come too late in a special session that is allowed to run no later than September 5.
After it became clear on Monday evening that a quorum of 100 members was not going to be reached, due to the missing Democrat lawmakers, House Republicans voted to lock the chamber doors and mandate that lawmakers receive written permission to leave the chamber each day.
This was one of the few steps present members were allowed when they do not have the numbers required to take official action.
Dallas State Rep. Jasmine Crockett, one of the plaintiffs in the case the Democrats brought to the court against their possible arrest, said that House Speaker Dade Phelan “thinks he can wave his hand and have his political opponents rounded up and arrested,” The Texas Tribune reported. “We’re watching a major political party backslide in real time from fair representation, the rule of law, and democracy itself.”